Local’s Best-Stressed: Unknowingly Starring in an NBC Crime Drama | by Annabelle Dinda | Sep, 2021

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I hope I win an Emmy for the performance I don’t know I’m giving.

Annabelle Dinda
The author in her room, hoping no one is filming her awkwardly pose for this not candid photo.
Graphic by author.

This is a public service announcement. Every day, millions of people roam the streets of New York City, and every day, millions are at risk of being wrapped up in the real life plot of a B-list NBC drama. I could be out and about when suddenly, I sense a mysterious man in skinny, black spy-jeans from H&M, following me at a distance. If I turn to see a figure that at all resembles any of these men, I am done for:

Graphic by author.

I would like to reemphasize the fact that I’m not just referring to any show, but specifically an NBC drama. Please refer to these same actors, as proof:

Graphic by author.

Now that we’re on the same page, I can confirm that, yes, this week’s Best-Stressed focuses on my longtime fear of unwittingly starring in a stupid-yet-addicting serialized drama, and being woefully underprepared. We’ve all seen the shows to which I am referring — Law and Order: SVU, New Amsterdam, The Blacklist, and all of the Chicagos (Fire, PD, Med and so on). (Granted, not all of these shows are set in New York, but I wanted to include Taylor Kinney because he is a beautiful man, loyal to the NBC empire, and I wanted to include The Blacklist because I love it, and it’s filmed here, so it counts.)

Since I was 14, surfing around my mother’s Netflix account on a school night, shows like these have been my bread and butter — PLEASE let me watch any strapping young-to-middle-aged man find and save a girl trapped in a vault below a metropolitan bank before a bomb timer goes off and detonates on the nearby subway lines. Please, show me that. But since I’ve lived in the city, I can’t help but feel like that girl could be me. To clarify, I am not addressing a real fear of crazy-villain people, more the vain, imaginary fear that in a vast, fictionalized criminal empire, I am the ignorant centerpiece, with soft hair and a stupid inclination towards dangerous situations.

The worst part of this whole thing is not the outcome of the harrowing crimes; it’s that I am wholly unfit to play the role of the naive heroine with a heart of gold. Take The Blacklist, for example: the protagonist has cameras in her house during the first season. Some criminal mastermind has her surveilled in her freaking bedroom. Sure, for her it doesn’t make much of a difference, all she does is kiss her ripped secret agent boyfriend and make toast in the morning. I, on the other hand, spend a concerning amount of time audibly reworking conversations I’ve had to make myself sound more intelligent or witty, and dancing sporadically when I get frustrated. My roommates see enough, and they barely see a quarter of it.

The reason these shows are so popular is because viewers (me) love to see similar-looking and attractive youngish people in high stress situations as they find love, bond with their families (both found and mysteriously biological), and solve age old cold cases over the course of 30 succinct minutes. Most of us, however, would be so incredulous in the face of these events that it would almost positively make for horrible TV, and surely an undesirable day-to-day life.

I like to think I would have some agency, after all: I have been saying I am going to take a self defense class for at least two years, and isn’t that the same thing as legitimately taking one? But I would definitely cry. The characters on these damn shows NEVER cry, they just stare gravely into stained gas station mirrors like Katy Perry does in the “Part Of Me” music video, before she goes to war.

If I were to discover that my great grandfather was the heir to a notorious mafia fortune, or an agent for MI6, (I should really have reviewed my Ancestry account beforehand), and that the key to the Hamptons mansion holding millions’ worth of illegally printed bills had been on a gold chain around my neck for twenty years, I would not be a graceful badass. There would be a lifetime’s worth of footage of me pulling down my spandex and repeating something someone said in a singsong voice when I hadn’t really been listening. There would inevitably be a ton of repetitive dialogue while I wrapped my head around my newly discovered fate. At the end of the day, I am no high-price lawyer, or up and coming detective. None of us are. Well, that’s just a hunch, but I’m pretty confident I’m right.

Essentially, we are all oblivious and gross and unprepared for the arresting, botox-induced beauty of most B-List actors on these shows, and none of us deserve to be the key to any criminal empire… But just because we don’t deserve it, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. So, if you see Ice-T coming your way, notepad in hand, hoping to ask you some questions about your missing bartender friend, close your eyes and pinch yourself until you wake up from this dreadful nightmare.

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